Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 16, 2009

Re: Big Bang Machine Felled by Frenchman from the Future

Anthony, we cannot rule out your theory that some Frenchman from the Future may have been behind the halt to the quixotic quest to find the “God particle” — even if you got the information from CNN. The scientist in the video you cited says $10 billion has been spent so far to find that particle, before the Large Hadron Collider up and (to use your quasi-scientific terminology) “went phfffff.”

My own theory is there may be an invisible soccer ball and an invisible ref, who may have called “time” on this particular game (although not the entire season).

The invisible soccer ball (although not necessarily the invisible ref) is the metaphor used by Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi in their 1993 book The God Particle, which sought to explain particle physics’ search for the ultimate explanation. They asked readers to imagine superintelligent visitors from another planet, able to see everything except black and white — and for whom zebras, NFL refs, and soccer balls are all invisible. They watch a soccer game and cannot understand it. People run back and forth and in circles, kicking the air every so often and falling down, and once in a while the person at one end or another of the field dives, the crowd cheers, and a point goes up on the board.

Totally inexplicable, completely meaningless — until one of them comes up with a theory: assume a ball. By positing a ball, all of a sudden everything works, the game makes sense, and it can be appreciated by the human mind — although another lesson may be that we should be respectful of what we don’t know, and may never know, even as we continue to seek it.

That ball is the equal possession of both religion and science: both posit a set of laws that govern the universe, even though the critical part of the game is invisible and not totally explicable. Both share a faith (since there is no actual proof) that the sun will come up tomorrow.

The book ends with a scene from an imagined movie. A scientist is standing on the beach at night, shouting at the universe that is the product of his mind: “It is I who provide you with reason, with purpose, with beauty. Of what use are you but for my consciousness and my constructions, which have revealed you?”  At that point:

A fuzzy swirling light appears in the sky, and a beam of radiance illuminates our man-on-the-beach. To the solemn and climactic chords of the Bach B Minor Mass, or perhaps the piccolo solo of Stravinsky’s “Rites,” the light in the sky slowly configures itself into Her Face, smiling, but with an expression of infinite sweet sadness.

It is unfortunate that so many years, and so much money, have been spent chasing a particle that has now apparently hidden itself (if CNN and a scientist we can barely understand are correct). But perhaps we should have mixed, even contradictory, emotions about this.  The proper response to this news may be a feeling of infinite sweet sadness.

Anthony, we cannot rule out your theory that some Frenchman from the Future may have been behind the halt to the quixotic quest to find the “God particle” — even if you got the information from CNN. The scientist in the video you cited says $10 billion has been spent so far to find that particle, before the Large Hadron Collider up and (to use your quasi-scientific terminology) “went phfffff.”

My own theory is there may be an invisible soccer ball and an invisible ref, who may have called “time” on this particular game (although not the entire season).

The invisible soccer ball (although not necessarily the invisible ref) is the metaphor used by Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi in their 1993 book The God Particle, which sought to explain particle physics’ search for the ultimate explanation. They asked readers to imagine superintelligent visitors from another planet, able to see everything except black and white — and for whom zebras, NFL refs, and soccer balls are all invisible. They watch a soccer game and cannot understand it. People run back and forth and in circles, kicking the air every so often and falling down, and once in a while the person at one end or another of the field dives, the crowd cheers, and a point goes up on the board.

Totally inexplicable, completely meaningless — until one of them comes up with a theory: assume a ball. By positing a ball, all of a sudden everything works, the game makes sense, and it can be appreciated by the human mind — although another lesson may be that we should be respectful of what we don’t know, and may never know, even as we continue to seek it.

That ball is the equal possession of both religion and science: both posit a set of laws that govern the universe, even though the critical part of the game is invisible and not totally explicable. Both share a faith (since there is no actual proof) that the sun will come up tomorrow.

The book ends with a scene from an imagined movie. A scientist is standing on the beach at night, shouting at the universe that is the product of his mind: “It is I who provide you with reason, with purpose, with beauty. Of what use are you but for my consciousness and my constructions, which have revealed you?”  At that point:

A fuzzy swirling light appears in the sky, and a beam of radiance illuminates our man-on-the-beach. To the solemn and climactic chords of the Bach B Minor Mass, or perhaps the piccolo solo of Stravinsky’s “Rites,” the light in the sky slowly configures itself into Her Face, smiling, but with an expression of infinite sweet sadness.

It is unfortunate that so many years, and so much money, have been spent chasing a particle that has now apparently hidden itself (if CNN and a scientist we can barely understand are correct). But perhaps we should have mixed, even contradictory, emotions about this.  The proper response to this news may be a feeling of infinite sweet sadness.

Read Less

IAEA Inspectors: We’re Shocked, Shocked at Iranian Duplicity

The findings of a report released today from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors about their survey of a previously secret underground nuclear-enrichment plant have apparently led the group to suspect that Iran may be concealing other nuclear factories. Surprise. Surprise. The unfinished facility near the holy city of Qom was built to accommodate enough centrifuges to produce a couple of nuclear weapons a year, but is, in fact, too small to be useful for civilian uses of nuclear power. That gives the lie to Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is for only peaceful intents, but it’s not as if anyone, either in Iran or elsewhere, actually believed that to begin with. But the point of the report is that this newly discovered plant only makes sense if it were part of a network of covert nuclear facilities that could feed it with “raw nuclear fuel.”

But anyone who is shocked about any of this hasn’t been paying attention to this issue for years. Only two years after the United States issued a ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate denying the reality of the Iranian program, even international bodies like the IAEA are no longer prepared to hedge their bets about Iranian intentions. The reality of the imminence of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied any longer, even by those who would prefer to ignore the peril this development poses to U.S. strategic interests as well as world peace. Experts differ as to the exact time line, but there’s little doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be in a position to announce that an Iranian nuclear device will be ready sometime within the next few years at the latest.

This also brings into perspective President Obama’s diplomacy on Iran. Having both campaigned on negotiations with Tehran without preconditions and downplayed the human-rights disaster in that country in the wake of a stolen presidential election, Obama seemed to believe he could make a deal with the ayatollahs. But the Iranians rightly sensed weakness and have exploited Obama’s desire for talks at any price. They negotiated a pact to transport their enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping and then renounced it within weeks without an explanation and have refused Obama’s desperate pleas for them to consider an even sweeter deal. With egg left on his face, Obama has been forced to go cap in hand to Russia and now China to beg them for support for sanctions on the recalcitrant Iranians. The Russians played along, to a certain extent, by expressing their unhappiness with Iran. But you have to forget everything we’ve learned about Vladimir Putin and his foreign-policy priorities in order to believe that the Russians will repudiate their Iranian trading partners to accommodate a prime U.S. strategic interest. Optimism about Chinese help is equally fantastic.

Obama’s amateur diplomacy of apologies and bows can take the U.S. just so far when it comes to manufacturing an international coalition behind the sorts of sanctions that could bring Iran to its knees. Having gambled on a losing diplomatic hand with Iran, the president is now scrambling to resurrect a policy that is clearly sinking under the weight of his naïveté. The latest UN report illustrates just how fast the clock is ticking toward a confrontation that the president seems ill equipped to handle.

The findings of a report released today from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors about their survey of a previously secret underground nuclear-enrichment plant have apparently led the group to suspect that Iran may be concealing other nuclear factories. Surprise. Surprise. The unfinished facility near the holy city of Qom was built to accommodate enough centrifuges to produce a couple of nuclear weapons a year, but is, in fact, too small to be useful for civilian uses of nuclear power. That gives the lie to Iran’s protests that its nuclear program is for only peaceful intents, but it’s not as if anyone, either in Iran or elsewhere, actually believed that to begin with. But the point of the report is that this newly discovered plant only makes sense if it were part of a network of covert nuclear facilities that could feed it with “raw nuclear fuel.”

But anyone who is shocked about any of this hasn’t been paying attention to this issue for years. Only two years after the United States issued a ridiculous National Intelligence Estimate denying the reality of the Iranian program, even international bodies like the IAEA are no longer prepared to hedge their bets about Iranian intentions. The reality of the imminence of a nuclear Iran cannot be denied any longer, even by those who would prefer to ignore the peril this development poses to U.S. strategic interests as well as world peace. Experts differ as to the exact time line, but there’s little doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be in a position to announce that an Iranian nuclear device will be ready sometime within the next few years at the latest.

This also brings into perspective President Obama’s diplomacy on Iran. Having both campaigned on negotiations with Tehran without preconditions and downplayed the human-rights disaster in that country in the wake of a stolen presidential election, Obama seemed to believe he could make a deal with the ayatollahs. But the Iranians rightly sensed weakness and have exploited Obama’s desire for talks at any price. They negotiated a pact to transport their enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping and then renounced it within weeks without an explanation and have refused Obama’s desperate pleas for them to consider an even sweeter deal. With egg left on his face, Obama has been forced to go cap in hand to Russia and now China to beg them for support for sanctions on the recalcitrant Iranians. The Russians played along, to a certain extent, by expressing their unhappiness with Iran. But you have to forget everything we’ve learned about Vladimir Putin and his foreign-policy priorities in order to believe that the Russians will repudiate their Iranian trading partners to accommodate a prime U.S. strategic interest. Optimism about Chinese help is equally fantastic.

Obama’s amateur diplomacy of apologies and bows can take the U.S. just so far when it comes to manufacturing an international coalition behind the sorts of sanctions that could bring Iran to its knees. Having gambled on a losing diplomatic hand with Iran, the president is now scrambling to resurrect a policy that is clearly sinking under the weight of his naïveté. The latest UN report illustrates just how fast the clock is ticking toward a confrontation that the president seems ill equipped to handle.

Read Less

Big Bang Machine Felled by Frenchman from the Future

So efforts by scientists to re-create the big bang — that moment, if one can speak of a moment, as in time, before there was time, or at least a decent wristwatch, when energy, or some hot gooey primordial stuff, spewed out a burgeoning universe, eventuating in the birth of galaxies, the advent of life, and the eventual cancellation of Charles in Charge — have failed once again.

It seems that the quixotic quest to find Higgs Boson, once thought to be the front man for an Air Supply tribute band, but which turns out to be the “God” particle,” has come to a crumbling halt.

First, about a year ago, the Large Hadron Collider (not to be confused with the Medium Hadron Collider and Omnidirectional Shower Head) went phffffff when, shortly upon whiz-banging, hydrogen began to leak from its cooling thingee, ruining a good pair of chinos and an autographed picture of Carol Channing.

Now, after months of grueling repair work by the finest minds that could be found on Craigslist, the whole epic venture to determine how matter attains mass, or why matadors go to Mass, or some such thing, I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention, has gone kablooey once again.

Turns out a piece of French bread gummed up the works.

Yes. French bread.

And that’s not the weird part.

As the narrator of this CNN piece relates:

According to two physicists, the culprit could be the Higgs-Boson Particle traveling back in time to destroy itself.

I hate when that happens.

One of those physicists, a man with three names and a thick foreign accent, and not one of those mad-scientist accents either, but more like that of a maitre’d at a bad fusion restaurant, said, “It would look as if the future has an influence on what happens today or yesterday.”

Which would explain my VISA bill. But I digress.

The narrator continued:

Dr. [THREE NAMES] says it looks like the Higgs Boson Particle may be so abhorrent to nature that it rippled back in time to sabotage the machine that created it.

But why French bread, when a bag of gummi bears would have proved just as effective? Unless Higgs Boson is a diversion, and some French saboteurs from the future have deliberately screwed things up, envious of others’ potential achievement. (You know how they get …)

In any event, judge for yourself:

I know what you’re thinking: this is CNN, and so this has to be a put-on. Or just wrong. And to be honest, French people from the future I’ve spoken to deny having anything to do with this. But they would, then, wouldn’t they? And I suppose the Belgians had nothing to do with the waffle that was found in the gene splicer at MIT’s Lab 40. Saw that on CNN too.

So efforts by scientists to re-create the big bang — that moment, if one can speak of a moment, as in time, before there was time, or at least a decent wristwatch, when energy, or some hot gooey primordial stuff, spewed out a burgeoning universe, eventuating in the birth of galaxies, the advent of life, and the eventual cancellation of Charles in Charge — have failed once again.

It seems that the quixotic quest to find Higgs Boson, once thought to be the front man for an Air Supply tribute band, but which turns out to be the “God” particle,” has come to a crumbling halt.

First, about a year ago, the Large Hadron Collider (not to be confused with the Medium Hadron Collider and Omnidirectional Shower Head) went phffffff when, shortly upon whiz-banging, hydrogen began to leak from its cooling thingee, ruining a good pair of chinos and an autographed picture of Carol Channing.

Now, after months of grueling repair work by the finest minds that could be found on Craigslist, the whole epic venture to determine how matter attains mass, or why matadors go to Mass, or some such thing, I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention, has gone kablooey once again.

Turns out a piece of French bread gummed up the works.

Yes. French bread.

And that’s not the weird part.

As the narrator of this CNN piece relates:

According to two physicists, the culprit could be the Higgs-Boson Particle traveling back in time to destroy itself.

I hate when that happens.

One of those physicists, a man with three names and a thick foreign accent, and not one of those mad-scientist accents either, but more like that of a maitre’d at a bad fusion restaurant, said, “It would look as if the future has an influence on what happens today or yesterday.”

Which would explain my VISA bill. But I digress.

The narrator continued:

Dr. [THREE NAMES] says it looks like the Higgs Boson Particle may be so abhorrent to nature that it rippled back in time to sabotage the machine that created it.

But why French bread, when a bag of gummi bears would have proved just as effective? Unless Higgs Boson is a diversion, and some French saboteurs from the future have deliberately screwed things up, envious of others’ potential achievement. (You know how they get …)

In any event, judge for yourself:

I know what you’re thinking: this is CNN, and so this has to be a put-on. Or just wrong. And to be honest, French people from the future I’ve spoken to deny having anything to do with this. But they would, then, wouldn’t they? And I suppose the Belgians had nothing to do with the waffle that was found in the gene splicer at MIT’s Lab 40. Saw that on CNN too.

Read Less

It’s a Gas

Why is Dmitry Medvedev now reporting himself to be losing patience with Iran? The likelihood that he is blowing hot merely as a prelude to blowing cold again is, of course, pretty strong, given his failure to demonstrate any reliable support for tougher sanctions to date. But Medvedev’s protestations to President Obama in Singapore coincided with a Russian announcement that the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which depends on Russian technical support, will not be brought online in 2009 as previously projected. This is a material setback for Iran’s overall nuclear program – and comes on top of Moscow’s continued refusal to deliver the S-300 air-defense system Iran contracted to buy in 2007.

Nothing in Russia’s history of dealing with revolutionary Iran supports the conclusion that Medvedev wants to get tough with Iran because he shares a common purpose with the Western powers to prevent Iran’s nuclearization. But Russia is wielding bargaining chips with Tehran at the moment, and is uttering vague words that might be interpreted by optimistic Westerners as support for intensified sanctions. Is Moscow seeking to leverage something from the West – or from Iran?

The clue to this puzzle may be flowing through pipelines in Central Asia. Iran is actually the key to what is being hailed in the region as the liberation of gas-rich Turkmenistan from the stranglehold of Gazprom. Turkmenistan, with the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas, is no small prize. Its gas production was second only to Russia’s in total Gazprom output, until a pipeline explosion in April prompted a cutoff by Ashgabat amid allegations that Gazprom had sabotaged the pipeline to intimidate the Turkmens. Gazprom accounts for 10 percent of Russian GDP and 25 percent of federal tax revenues, but its highest-producing Siberian fields are being quickly depleted of their recoverable gas, with production from them expected to decline to nil by as early as 2020. Control of Turkmen gas is a major financial issue for Moscow.

Turkmenistan has found pipeline partners in Iran and China, however, and next month anticipates inaugurating an increased gas flow to Iran that could ultimately connect it, through Turkey, with the Nabucco pipeline that will bypass Gazprom to bring gas to Europe. By one route or another, the pipeline through Iran promises to be a gateway to Western consumers. President Berdymukhamedov emphasized his country’s gas independence in October by replacing most of the oil- and gas-industry officials in Turkmenistan. On November 1, in a fresh start after their ugly gas-pricing dispute of 2008, Turkmenistan welcomed a delegation from Iran seeking to eliminate customs barriers, increase trade, and jointly develop oil and gas infrastructure in the Caspian Sea.

Russia has never hesitated to twist foreign arms for Gazprom, whose revenues prop up the state and make its military acquisition program possible. It’s considerably more likely that Iran is being pressured on its gas arrangements with Turkmenistan than that Russia’s government has begun seeing the Iranian nuclear problem through Western eyes.

Why is Dmitry Medvedev now reporting himself to be losing patience with Iran? The likelihood that he is blowing hot merely as a prelude to blowing cold again is, of course, pretty strong, given his failure to demonstrate any reliable support for tougher sanctions to date. But Medvedev’s protestations to President Obama in Singapore coincided with a Russian announcement that the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which depends on Russian technical support, will not be brought online in 2009 as previously projected. This is a material setback for Iran’s overall nuclear program – and comes on top of Moscow’s continued refusal to deliver the S-300 air-defense system Iran contracted to buy in 2007.

Nothing in Russia’s history of dealing with revolutionary Iran supports the conclusion that Medvedev wants to get tough with Iran because he shares a common purpose with the Western powers to prevent Iran’s nuclearization. But Russia is wielding bargaining chips with Tehran at the moment, and is uttering vague words that might be interpreted by optimistic Westerners as support for intensified sanctions. Is Moscow seeking to leverage something from the West – or from Iran?

The clue to this puzzle may be flowing through pipelines in Central Asia. Iran is actually the key to what is being hailed in the region as the liberation of gas-rich Turkmenistan from the stranglehold of Gazprom. Turkmenistan, with the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas, is no small prize. Its gas production was second only to Russia’s in total Gazprom output, until a pipeline explosion in April prompted a cutoff by Ashgabat amid allegations that Gazprom had sabotaged the pipeline to intimidate the Turkmens. Gazprom accounts for 10 percent of Russian GDP and 25 percent of federal tax revenues, but its highest-producing Siberian fields are being quickly depleted of their recoverable gas, with production from them expected to decline to nil by as early as 2020. Control of Turkmen gas is a major financial issue for Moscow.

Turkmenistan has found pipeline partners in Iran and China, however, and next month anticipates inaugurating an increased gas flow to Iran that could ultimately connect it, through Turkey, with the Nabucco pipeline that will bypass Gazprom to bring gas to Europe. By one route or another, the pipeline through Iran promises to be a gateway to Western consumers. President Berdymukhamedov emphasized his country’s gas independence in October by replacing most of the oil- and gas-industry officials in Turkmenistan. On November 1, in a fresh start after their ugly gas-pricing dispute of 2008, Turkmenistan welcomed a delegation from Iran seeking to eliminate customs barriers, increase trade, and jointly develop oil and gas infrastructure in the Caspian Sea.

Russia has never hesitated to twist foreign arms for Gazprom, whose revenues prop up the state and make its military acquisition program possible. It’s considerably more likely that Iran is being pressured on its gas arrangements with Turkmenistan than that Russia’s government has begun seeing the Iranian nuclear problem through Western eyes.

Read Less

Alice in Wonderland Justice

The decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a federal courthouse in Manhattan, where he and his four co-conspirators will receive the full array of rights enjoyed by American citizens, will show the world that our system of justice is an enlightened model for the rest of the world. It will “vindicate this country’s basic values” and “stand as a symbol in the world of something different from what the terrorists represent.” We will be adhering to the “rule of law.” Or so Obama defenders argue.

But imagine KSM being found not guilty, which is a possibility. What happens then? According to Democratic Senator Jack Reed, “under basic principles of international law, as long as these individuals pose a threat, they can be detained, and they will.” Come again? You mean if KSM is acquitted he will still be detained? Yes indeed, according to Senator Reed. He will not be released, “because under the principle of preventive detention, which is recognized during hostilities,” we can continue to hold KSM.

Well, now. It seems to me as though President Obama and Attorney General Holder need to be asked whether they agree with Senator Reed. If not — if they believe that the proud, self-confessed mastermind of the deadliest attack in history on the American homeland should be able to walk free if acquitted in this trial — then Obama and Holder should certainly say so. If KSM were acquitted, the president and his attorney general should proclaim from the rooftops that Mohammed is a free man, found innocent in a civilian court of law, and then allow voters to render a judgment on their decision.

If, on the other hand, Obama and Holder agree with Senator Reed, they should state that as well.

Right now Obama and Holder, in saying they are answering the “call to justice and fairness,” take great pride in presenting themselves as committed to equal justice under the law. That they are willing to try KSM in a civilian court is supposedly proof of their enlightened worldview. Except that if President Obama and Attorney General Holder agree with Senator Reed, it is all a fiction: If KSM is acquitted, he will not walk the streets of New York City or of any other place. He will be detained. The verdict in his trial will be rendered inoperative. And the justice and fairness that Obama and Holder speak about will turn out to be quite different from what most people who are praising Obama’s decision have in mind. The “rule of law” our president and his attorney general hope to showcase will actually be a game that has been rigged at the outset. It will be Alice in Wonderland justice (first the verdict, then the trial; and if the trial turns out differently from what you had hoped, ignore the verdict). If that’s the case, then what Obama and Holder are doing will turn out to be a very dangerous stunt done only for optics. Their actions will be revealed as cynical and misleading. And engaging in this charade in order to impress the rest of the world will do significant harm to our nation.

Every month the Obama administration seems to outdo itself in terms of making terribly unwise decisions. This one ranks high among them. It will add another damaging brushstroke to the Obama canvas. The current administration is revealing itself one act at a time; the curtain is being pulled back on it one decision at a time. The liberal, and in some cases the radical, actions of the Obama administration are piling up like cars in a rush-hour traffic accident. But a day of reckoning will come, I suspect; first to Mr. Obama’s party, and then to Mr. Obama himself.

The decision to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a federal courthouse in Manhattan, where he and his four co-conspirators will receive the full array of rights enjoyed by American citizens, will show the world that our system of justice is an enlightened model for the rest of the world. It will “vindicate this country’s basic values” and “stand as a symbol in the world of something different from what the terrorists represent.” We will be adhering to the “rule of law.” Or so Obama defenders argue.

But imagine KSM being found not guilty, which is a possibility. What happens then? According to Democratic Senator Jack Reed, “under basic principles of international law, as long as these individuals pose a threat, they can be detained, and they will.” Come again? You mean if KSM is acquitted he will still be detained? Yes indeed, according to Senator Reed. He will not be released, “because under the principle of preventive detention, which is recognized during hostilities,” we can continue to hold KSM.

Well, now. It seems to me as though President Obama and Attorney General Holder need to be asked whether they agree with Senator Reed. If not — if they believe that the proud, self-confessed mastermind of the deadliest attack in history on the American homeland should be able to walk free if acquitted in this trial — then Obama and Holder should certainly say so. If KSM were acquitted, the president and his attorney general should proclaim from the rooftops that Mohammed is a free man, found innocent in a civilian court of law, and then allow voters to render a judgment on their decision.

If, on the other hand, Obama and Holder agree with Senator Reed, they should state that as well.

Right now Obama and Holder, in saying they are answering the “call to justice and fairness,” take great pride in presenting themselves as committed to equal justice under the law. That they are willing to try KSM in a civilian court is supposedly proof of their enlightened worldview. Except that if President Obama and Attorney General Holder agree with Senator Reed, it is all a fiction: If KSM is acquitted, he will not walk the streets of New York City or of any other place. He will be detained. The verdict in his trial will be rendered inoperative. And the justice and fairness that Obama and Holder speak about will turn out to be quite different from what most people who are praising Obama’s decision have in mind. The “rule of law” our president and his attorney general hope to showcase will actually be a game that has been rigged at the outset. It will be Alice in Wonderland justice (first the verdict, then the trial; and if the trial turns out differently from what you had hoped, ignore the verdict). If that’s the case, then what Obama and Holder are doing will turn out to be a very dangerous stunt done only for optics. Their actions will be revealed as cynical and misleading. And engaging in this charade in order to impress the rest of the world will do significant harm to our nation.

Every month the Obama administration seems to outdo itself in terms of making terribly unwise decisions. This one ranks high among them. It will add another damaging brushstroke to the Obama canvas. The current administration is revealing itself one act at a time; the curtain is being pulled back on it one decision at a time. The liberal, and in some cases the radical, actions of the Obama administration are piling up like cars in a rush-hour traffic accident. But a day of reckoning will come, I suspect; first to Mr. Obama’s party, and then to Mr. Obama himself.

Read Less

The Speech He Chose Not to Give

November 9 — the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — was a slow day at the White House. (How slow? Look at the Picture of the Day posted on the White House website for that day.) The main events were a brief afternoon reception and an evening meeting with a foreign leader, neither of which had been on the calendar 48 hours before.

President Obama might have used the relatively slow day to give the speech he had planned to give on November 10 to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (considered one of the most important meetings of the year for the organized Jewish community, with several thousand in attendance, meeting less than three miles from the White House), since he’d had to cancel his November 10 appearance to travel to Fort Hood.

But proceeding with that speech would undoubtedly have invited comparison to his 2008 “Let Me Be Clear” speech to AIPAC — the one in which he had said he would use “all elements of American power” to pressure Iran:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. …

We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing. …

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. …

I will make known to allies and adversaries alike [a pledge] that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.

Does anyone think that Obama’s diplomacy with Iran has been “aggressive,” “tough,” and “principled”? Or that he was the one who chose the time and place it started? Or that an agenda was built before it commenced? Or that the threat of military action remains on the table? Or that America’s friendship with Israel under his administration is unwavering?

Or that the reason he chose not to give his speech to the General Assembly a day early was that he could not fit it into his schedule?

November 9 — the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — was a slow day at the White House. (How slow? Look at the Picture of the Day posted on the White House website for that day.) The main events were a brief afternoon reception and an evening meeting with a foreign leader, neither of which had been on the calendar 48 hours before.

President Obama might have used the relatively slow day to give the speech he had planned to give on November 10 to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (considered one of the most important meetings of the year for the organized Jewish community, with several thousand in attendance, meeting less than three miles from the White House), since he’d had to cancel his November 10 appearance to travel to Fort Hood.

But proceeding with that speech would undoubtedly have invited comparison to his 2008 “Let Me Be Clear” speech to AIPAC — the one in which he had said he would use “all elements of American power” to pressure Iran:

I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. …

We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing. …

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. …

I will make known to allies and adversaries alike [a pledge] that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.

Does anyone think that Obama’s diplomacy with Iran has been “aggressive,” “tough,” and “principled”? Or that he was the one who chose the time and place it started? Or that an agenda was built before it commenced? Or that the threat of military action remains on the table? Or that America’s friendship with Israel under his administration is unwavering?

Or that the reason he chose not to give his speech to the General Assembly a day early was that he could not fit it into his schedule?

Read Less

The Meaning of Palestinian Politics

Over at the New Republic, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations speaks a few truths about Palestinian politics that aren’t often mentioned. His “The Third Intifada” discusses the likelihood of the current diplomatic standoff between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in a new round of violence. But rather than going the route of conventional wisdom and blaming it all on the hard-hearted Israelis, who won’t make enough concessions to appease their antagonists, Cook goes straight to the heart of Palestinian political culture when he notes that, as in the not-so-distant past, their leaders will resort to bloodshed as a way out of the corner into which they have painted themselves and as a means to bolster their credibility with constituencies that seem only to respect violence.

Another intifada makes no sense for the Palestinians. Another campaign of attacks on Israeli targets has little chance of success and it would, without doubt, cost far more Palestinian than Israeli lives. It would also ruin, as the first and second intifadas did, the economic progress Palestinians have made in recent years and inflict a new round of misery on them. But, as Cook points out, none of that will matter because “if history is any guide, the Palestinian leadership of the West Bank — whether it includes Mahmoud Abbas or not — may again look to a violence to improve its sagging domestic popularity. Throughout contemporary Palestinian history, spilling Israeli blood has often been the best way for competing political factions to burnish their nationalist credentials.”

In an important point often overlooked by apologists for Abbas, Cook also believes that “faith” in the ability or willingness of the new Palestinian Authority security forces to stop anti-Israel terror in the future “seems misguided.” Those forces have been the subject of much positive comment from both Jerusalem and Washington, but Cook understands that in order to maintain their credibility among Palestinians these units will have to turn their guns on their erstwhile Israeli partners if push comes to shove. Since this is exactly what happened in 2000 when the second intifada broke out — when Palestinian policeman who had also received U.S. training joined mobs attacking Israeli positions rather than try to restrain them — why should anyone doubt that another intifada will produce the same result?

But lest anyone conclude that the only alternative to another intifada is a more forthcoming Israeli negotiating position, it is important to remember a few points that go unmentioned in Cook’s article. Far from a lack of diplomatic progress providing a spur to Palestinian violence, it is the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to make peace that is the root cause of the problem. Having rejected a state in the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for recognizing Israel’s legitimacy both in 2000 and 2008, it is more than obvious that their real fear doesn’t stem from the unlikelihood of peace but rather from the certainty of a deal if they should actually seriously pursue one. Though Barack Obama gave them a new excuse for dragging their feet this year by trying to make a settlement freeze a precondition for talks, Abbas must follow Arafat’s precedent and choose war over peace because anything less would result in his destruction.

Whether or not Israelis build new homes in their own capital, a point that Cook wrongly acknowledges as a seeming justification for Palestinian unhappiness, rejection of Israel’s existence and belief in the inherent legitimacy of anti-Israel violence is still the core of Palestinian political identity. Unless and until that changes, all we can expect is an endless stream of intifadas undertaken not out of frustration but as a way to avoid making peace.

Over at the New Republic, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations speaks a few truths about Palestinian politics that aren’t often mentioned. His “The Third Intifada” discusses the likelihood of the current diplomatic standoff between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in a new round of violence. But rather than going the route of conventional wisdom and blaming it all on the hard-hearted Israelis, who won’t make enough concessions to appease their antagonists, Cook goes straight to the heart of Palestinian political culture when he notes that, as in the not-so-distant past, their leaders will resort to bloodshed as a way out of the corner into which they have painted themselves and as a means to bolster their credibility with constituencies that seem only to respect violence.

Another intifada makes no sense for the Palestinians. Another campaign of attacks on Israeli targets has little chance of success and it would, without doubt, cost far more Palestinian than Israeli lives. It would also ruin, as the first and second intifadas did, the economic progress Palestinians have made in recent years and inflict a new round of misery on them. But, as Cook points out, none of that will matter because “if history is any guide, the Palestinian leadership of the West Bank — whether it includes Mahmoud Abbas or not — may again look to a violence to improve its sagging domestic popularity. Throughout contemporary Palestinian history, spilling Israeli blood has often been the best way for competing political factions to burnish their nationalist credentials.”

In an important point often overlooked by apologists for Abbas, Cook also believes that “faith” in the ability or willingness of the new Palestinian Authority security forces to stop anti-Israel terror in the future “seems misguided.” Those forces have been the subject of much positive comment from both Jerusalem and Washington, but Cook understands that in order to maintain their credibility among Palestinians these units will have to turn their guns on their erstwhile Israeli partners if push comes to shove. Since this is exactly what happened in 2000 when the second intifada broke out — when Palestinian policeman who had also received U.S. training joined mobs attacking Israeli positions rather than try to restrain them — why should anyone doubt that another intifada will produce the same result?

But lest anyone conclude that the only alternative to another intifada is a more forthcoming Israeli negotiating position, it is important to remember a few points that go unmentioned in Cook’s article. Far from a lack of diplomatic progress providing a spur to Palestinian violence, it is the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to make peace that is the root cause of the problem. Having rejected a state in the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for recognizing Israel’s legitimacy both in 2000 and 2008, it is more than obvious that their real fear doesn’t stem from the unlikelihood of peace but rather from the certainty of a deal if they should actually seriously pursue one. Though Barack Obama gave them a new excuse for dragging their feet this year by trying to make a settlement freeze a precondition for talks, Abbas must follow Arafat’s precedent and choose war over peace because anything less would result in his destruction.

Whether or not Israelis build new homes in their own capital, a point that Cook wrongly acknowledges as a seeming justification for Palestinian unhappiness, rejection of Israel’s existence and belief in the inherent legitimacy of anti-Israel violence is still the core of Palestinian political identity. Unless and until that changes, all we can expect is an endless stream of intifadas undertaken not out of frustration but as a way to avoid making peace.

Read Less

Not So Fast

ABC News reports:

The Obama administration, under fire for inflating job growth from the $787 billion stimulus plan, slashed over 60,000 jobs from its most recent report on the program because the reporting outlets had submitted “unrealistic data,” according to a document obtained by ABC News. A document from the Office of Management and Budget obtained by ABC News shows that before an Oct. 30 progress report on the government stimulus program the administration asked the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to remove information from 12 stimulus recipients that contained “unrealistic data,” including “unrealistic job data.”

This, of course, adds to the sense that the Obama team is resorting to phony numbers to justify the boondoggle-ridden stimulus, which everyone but the most fervent pro-Obama spinners regards as a bust. Keep in mind that it’s now November, and the stimulus package is still the primary and most highly touted “accomplishment” of the Obama domestic agenda. With each revelation, there is even less to tout.

Moreover, this news report comes at the very time the Obami are trying to jam through a massive health-care plan, far more dubious in its promises and more controversial than the gargantuan stimulus bill. If the biggest hurdle to health-care reform is Americans’ innate distrust of big government, more evidence that we can’t really trust what is coming out of Washington will plainly make harder the task of ramming through that reform.

Simply put, the last thing the Obama team needed was evidence that it is prone to spend too much, is too cavalier with the facts, and delivers too little to the American people.

ABC News reports:

The Obama administration, under fire for inflating job growth from the $787 billion stimulus plan, slashed over 60,000 jobs from its most recent report on the program because the reporting outlets had submitted “unrealistic data,” according to a document obtained by ABC News. A document from the Office of Management and Budget obtained by ABC News shows that before an Oct. 30 progress report on the government stimulus program the administration asked the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to remove information from 12 stimulus recipients that contained “unrealistic data,” including “unrealistic job data.”

This, of course, adds to the sense that the Obama team is resorting to phony numbers to justify the boondoggle-ridden stimulus, which everyone but the most fervent pro-Obama spinners regards as a bust. Keep in mind that it’s now November, and the stimulus package is still the primary and most highly touted “accomplishment” of the Obama domestic agenda. With each revelation, there is even less to tout.

Moreover, this news report comes at the very time the Obami are trying to jam through a massive health-care plan, far more dubious in its promises and more controversial than the gargantuan stimulus bill. If the biggest hurdle to health-care reform is Americans’ innate distrust of big government, more evidence that we can’t really trust what is coming out of Washington will plainly make harder the task of ramming through that reform.

Simply put, the last thing the Obama team needed was evidence that it is prone to spend too much, is too cavalier with the facts, and delivers too little to the American people.

Read Less

What Happened to That Deadline?

Weeks have passed since the “deadline” for the Iranian regime to accept the deal that offered to enrich their uranium for them. In public, the Iranians keep telling us “no” and that they aren’t giving up the promise of a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday reiterated that his country’s rights on “the nuclear issue” are non-negotiable and its nuclear activities and cooperation happen within the framework of IAEA regulations, according to at report on the Iranian student news agency ISNA.

“Iran is ready for constructive and honest cooperation with western countries in the field of nuclear technology,” he was quoted by ISNA as saying, while warning that the West’s confrontation with Iran only makes the country “more powerful and more developed.”

And oh, by the way, Ahmadinejad tells us that the media are “the lever of international Zionism to dominate the entire world.” So are we done yet? The Obami have gotten their answer and have done nothing. Where are the sanctions, the other options, and the “international community”? It seems nowhere. The Obami, we were told, had a Plan B if engagement failed. Yet it has, though they are loath to tell anyone. But the Iranians gleefully observe our paralysis and move apace with their nuclear program.

Do you feel safer yet?

Weeks have passed since the “deadline” for the Iranian regime to accept the deal that offered to enrich their uranium for them. In public, the Iranians keep telling us “no” and that they aren’t giving up the promise of a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday reiterated that his country’s rights on “the nuclear issue” are non-negotiable and its nuclear activities and cooperation happen within the framework of IAEA regulations, according to at report on the Iranian student news agency ISNA.

“Iran is ready for constructive and honest cooperation with western countries in the field of nuclear technology,” he was quoted by ISNA as saying, while warning that the West’s confrontation with Iran only makes the country “more powerful and more developed.”

And oh, by the way, Ahmadinejad tells us that the media are “the lever of international Zionism to dominate the entire world.” So are we done yet? The Obami have gotten their answer and have done nothing. Where are the sanctions, the other options, and the “international community”? It seems nowhere. The Obami, we were told, had a Plan B if engagement failed. Yet it has, though they are loath to tell anyone. But the Iranians gleefully observe our paralysis and move apace with their nuclear program.

Do you feel safer yet?

Read Less

Why So Mum?

Ben Smith reports:

Human Rights advocates have been deeply disappointed — more than many will say publicly — by elements of Obama’s first year, as the White House has appeared to make the cause secondary in relationships from Turkey to Sudan and has avoided casting even conflicts, like Afghanistan, in the human rights terms George W. Bush often used.

China was an early red flag for some, as Secretary Clinton said in February that human rights wouldn’t be allowed to “interfere” with other issues, a remark she subsequently walked back. But human rights groups have been watching President Obama’s visit to China closely for a sense of how, and whether, he’ll publicly broach the question.

He notes that Amnesty International was pleased by Obama’s comments on censorship and religious freedom in Shanghai but says that the group’s director of international advocacy does “want him to speak more forcefully during the press conference [with President Hu] itself and also set some benchmarks.”

This raises the question of why these groups are saying one thing in private and another (or nothing much at all) in public. Are they in the business of blocking and tackling for Obama because they think he’s a swell liberal, or are they in the business of advocacy for human rights and democracy? Well, more the former, it seems. Given the administration’s rather putrid record on human rights over the past 10 months, one would expect these groups to be apoplectic, as certainly they would be if a Republican administration had shunned the Dalai Lama and downgraded human rights at every turn.

Maybe, like so many others, human-rights groups will begin to evaluate Obama both on what he does and what he says. And in that regard, they should have plenty to complain about.

Ben Smith reports:

Human Rights advocates have been deeply disappointed — more than many will say publicly — by elements of Obama’s first year, as the White House has appeared to make the cause secondary in relationships from Turkey to Sudan and has avoided casting even conflicts, like Afghanistan, in the human rights terms George W. Bush often used.

China was an early red flag for some, as Secretary Clinton said in February that human rights wouldn’t be allowed to “interfere” with other issues, a remark she subsequently walked back. But human rights groups have been watching President Obama’s visit to China closely for a sense of how, and whether, he’ll publicly broach the question.

He notes that Amnesty International was pleased by Obama’s comments on censorship and religious freedom in Shanghai but says that the group’s director of international advocacy does “want him to speak more forcefully during the press conference [with President Hu] itself and also set some benchmarks.”

This raises the question of why these groups are saying one thing in private and another (or nothing much at all) in public. Are they in the business of blocking and tackling for Obama because they think he’s a swell liberal, or are they in the business of advocacy for human rights and democracy? Well, more the former, it seems. Given the administration’s rather putrid record on human rights over the past 10 months, one would expect these groups to be apoplectic, as certainly they would be if a Republican administration had shunned the Dalai Lama and downgraded human rights at every turn.

Maybe, like so many others, human-rights groups will begin to evaluate Obama both on what he does and what he says. And in that regard, they should have plenty to complain about.

Read Less

Why?

Robert Samuelson has a must-read Washington Post column on ObamaCare. Pointing out that the country’s fiscal situation is terrible right now, Samuelson writes that

a prudent society would embark on long-term policies to control health costs, reduce government spending, and curb massive future deficits. The administration estimates these at $9 trillion from 2010 to 2019. The president and all his top economic advisers proclaim the same cautionary message.

So, what do they do? Just the opposite.

The question, of course, is why? Why a massive overhaul of the American health-care system that anyone honest knows will cost far more than advertised, instead of concentrating on reviving the economy and lowering the deficit, which are the primary concerns of the people in poll after poll?

Why not make incremental improvements in the health-care system, such as 1) allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, 2) reforming tort law, 3) allowing small companies to band together to buy insurance at lower prices, and 4) requiring health-care providers to post prices for standard procedures? These actions would cost the government not a single red cent (and red they are, as they are all borrowed) and would greatly lower health-care costs at the same time, a political win-win if ever there was one.

It is hard not to draw the conclusion that Obama, Pelosi & Co. see this as a one-time opportunity to make socialized medicine inevitable. By destroying the current health-care system under the name of reform, they would make single-payer unavoidable. The fact that the majority of the American people, as measured in numerous polls, don’t want single-payer is, apparently, a matter to which they are indifferent. The fact that the fiscal situation can only sharply deteriorate in the process is likewise not something they seem to care about.

The analogy being drawn is with Franklin Roosevelt, who moved a deeply isolationist country toward war with the Axis powers before Pearl Harbor because he believed that it was in the interests of the American people, even though they opposed it at the time. But that is a false analogy. Foreign-policy situations can be irreversible and time-sensitive. Had Roosevelt not done what he did, Germany might easily have ended up supreme in Europe and thus in a position from which it would have directly menaced the United States while being exceedingly difficult to defeat (how do you invade Europe without Britain as a base?).

But if we don’t radically reform health care today, we can still do it two years or five years from now when the economy and the deficit are much improved. People will still be adequately, often splendidly, cared for in the meantime. With the incremental reforms listed above, we might well find out that the system doesn’t need much reform in five years.

That, of course, is exactly why Obama wants it done now. He is bent on sharply shifting power in the direction of the government, away from individuals and the free market, and is willing to defy both the public and fiscal sanity to achieve this goal.

Robert Samuelson has a must-read Washington Post column on ObamaCare. Pointing out that the country’s fiscal situation is terrible right now, Samuelson writes that

a prudent society would embark on long-term policies to control health costs, reduce government spending, and curb massive future deficits. The administration estimates these at $9 trillion from 2010 to 2019. The president and all his top economic advisers proclaim the same cautionary message.

So, what do they do? Just the opposite.

The question, of course, is why? Why a massive overhaul of the American health-care system that anyone honest knows will cost far more than advertised, instead of concentrating on reviving the economy and lowering the deficit, which are the primary concerns of the people in poll after poll?

Why not make incremental improvements in the health-care system, such as 1) allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, 2) reforming tort law, 3) allowing small companies to band together to buy insurance at lower prices, and 4) requiring health-care providers to post prices for standard procedures? These actions would cost the government not a single red cent (and red they are, as they are all borrowed) and would greatly lower health-care costs at the same time, a political win-win if ever there was one.

It is hard not to draw the conclusion that Obama, Pelosi & Co. see this as a one-time opportunity to make socialized medicine inevitable. By destroying the current health-care system under the name of reform, they would make single-payer unavoidable. The fact that the majority of the American people, as measured in numerous polls, don’t want single-payer is, apparently, a matter to which they are indifferent. The fact that the fiscal situation can only sharply deteriorate in the process is likewise not something they seem to care about.

The analogy being drawn is with Franklin Roosevelt, who moved a deeply isolationist country toward war with the Axis powers before Pearl Harbor because he believed that it was in the interests of the American people, even though they opposed it at the time. But that is a false analogy. Foreign-policy situations can be irreversible and time-sensitive. Had Roosevelt not done what he did, Germany might easily have ended up supreme in Europe and thus in a position from which it would have directly menaced the United States while being exceedingly difficult to defeat (how do you invade Europe without Britain as a base?).

But if we don’t radically reform health care today, we can still do it two years or five years from now when the economy and the deficit are much improved. People will still be adequately, often splendidly, cared for in the meantime. With the incremental reforms listed above, we might well find out that the system doesn’t need much reform in five years.

That, of course, is exactly why Obama wants it done now. He is bent on sharply shifting power in the direction of the government, away from individuals and the free market, and is willing to defy both the public and fiscal sanity to achieve this goal.

Read Less

The Panama Precedent

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has made several welcome changes to his ministry’s priority list, with perhaps the most noteworthy being the section on bilateral relationships. Strengthening ties with Arab states, which was at the top of that section under his predecessor, Tzipi Livni, is now at the bottom. Instead, Lieberman assigned priority to strengthening ties with the hitherto neglected regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

From a cost-benefit standpoint, this is a smart move. No Arab state is going to be anything but hostile in the foreseeable future. And while it is obviously preferable for states like Saudi Arabia to remain at their present hostility level rather than to escalate to Iran’s level, any investment beyond the minimum needed to ensure this much is just wasted time and effort.

In contrast, few non-Muslim states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are inherently hostile to Israel; hence an investment of time and effort might well improve relations. And while most of these countries have little clout, they could nevertheless do much to boost Israel’s global image.

To understand why, consider this month’s UN General Assembly vote endorsing the Goldstone Report. The resolution passed 118-18-44, with another 16 countries not voting. That is a lopsided condemnation of Israel.

But of the 16 countries that skipped the vote, all were from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Of the 44 abstainers, 18 were from these regions (most were European). And of the 118 who voted in favor, almost half belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; most of the rest were non-Muslim states from Africa, Asia, and Latin America (plus five European states). Thus the vote could clearly have been made much less lopsided by flipping some of these states from “yes” to “abstention” and others from “abstention” or “not voting” to “no.”

Why does this matter? Because the fact that resolutions condemning Israel consistently pass by such lopsided margins contributes greatly to Israel’s pariah image, portraying it as a country with scarcely a friend in the world. If, instead, such condemnations passed only narrowly, this would portray it as a country that, despite many enemies, also has many friends. And countries with many friends are by definition not pariahs.

Could an investment of diplomatic effort flip some of these countries? It’s hard to know, given that Israel has never tried; for decades, its diplomacy has focused almost exclusively on the West and the Middle East. Nevertheless, another datum from the Goldstone vote is suggestive: the only Latin American country that did vote “no” on Goldstone — Panama — did so two weeks after its president met personally with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

And that’s the point: Most of these countries know little about Israel, and therefore care little. But if Israel made an effort to fill the knowledge gap, the caring gap might shrink, too. At the very least, it’s worth a try — especially when the alternative is for Israeli diplomats to waste their time battering their heads against a hostile Arab wall.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has made several welcome changes to his ministry’s priority list, with perhaps the most noteworthy being the section on bilateral relationships. Strengthening ties with Arab states, which was at the top of that section under his predecessor, Tzipi Livni, is now at the bottom. Instead, Lieberman assigned priority to strengthening ties with the hitherto neglected regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

From a cost-benefit standpoint, this is a smart move. No Arab state is going to be anything but hostile in the foreseeable future. And while it is obviously preferable for states like Saudi Arabia to remain at their present hostility level rather than to escalate to Iran’s level, any investment beyond the minimum needed to ensure this much is just wasted time and effort.

In contrast, few non-Muslim states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are inherently hostile to Israel; hence an investment of time and effort might well improve relations. And while most of these countries have little clout, they could nevertheless do much to boost Israel’s global image.

To understand why, consider this month’s UN General Assembly vote endorsing the Goldstone Report. The resolution passed 118-18-44, with another 16 countries not voting. That is a lopsided condemnation of Israel.

But of the 16 countries that skipped the vote, all were from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Of the 44 abstainers, 18 were from these regions (most were European). And of the 118 who voted in favor, almost half belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference; most of the rest were non-Muslim states from Africa, Asia, and Latin America (plus five European states). Thus the vote could clearly have been made much less lopsided by flipping some of these states from “yes” to “abstention” and others from “abstention” or “not voting” to “no.”

Why does this matter? Because the fact that resolutions condemning Israel consistently pass by such lopsided margins contributes greatly to Israel’s pariah image, portraying it as a country with scarcely a friend in the world. If, instead, such condemnations passed only narrowly, this would portray it as a country that, despite many enemies, also has many friends. And countries with many friends are by definition not pariahs.

Could an investment of diplomatic effort flip some of these countries? It’s hard to know, given that Israel has never tried; for decades, its diplomacy has focused almost exclusively on the West and the Middle East. Nevertheless, another datum from the Goldstone vote is suggestive: the only Latin American country that did vote “no” on Goldstone — Panama — did so two weeks after its president met personally with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

And that’s the point: Most of these countries know little about Israel, and therefore care little. But if Israel made an effort to fill the knowledge gap, the caring gap might shrink, too. At the very least, it’s worth a try — especially when the alternative is for Israeli diplomats to waste their time battering their heads against a hostile Arab wall.

Read Less

Purple Hearts and a Blind Eye

Roger Kimball asks: “Will the soldiers whom Hasan killed or injured in this latest terrorist assault receive the Purple Heart?” Well, they should, as he points out, because they were killed in the line of duty by a jihadist who told us hewas on a mission from God to attack American troops. Kimball observes:

It’s tricky for Obama. His administration is devoted to transforming the jihadist war against the West into a civilian conflict. Hence the heavy odor of political correctness that has hung about Fort. Hood since November 5 when Maj. Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” and opened fire.

Perhaps the most nauseating PC emission came from General George Casey, the army’s top officer, who told CNN that he was “concerned” that “speculation” about Maj. Hasan’s motivation in mowing down those 40-odd people at Ft. Hood “could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.”

So we are being tested, once again, to see whether we can shake ourselves from the slumber and the natural inclination to minimize, avoid, and ignore the looming face of monstrous evil that threatens not only individual Americans but also Western civilization. That’s what is at stake here and what the Obama administration is at pains to conceal. It makes them nervous, it disrupts their kumbaya internationalist view, and it would summon them to put away childish stunts (e.g., moving KSM to New York, closing Guantanamo, purging “Islamic fundamentalism” from their vocabulary) in favor of a robust policy of national security that is commensurate with the threat we face.

As Kimball notes, Obama insisted on calling the massacre “incomprehensible,” a telling word that describes perhaps the intellectual confusion now gripping much of the chattering class. Kimball observes, “Until we are willing to face up to that truth, we will not be able to defend ourselves effectively.” So far, we’re off to a poor start.

Roger Kimball asks: “Will the soldiers whom Hasan killed or injured in this latest terrorist assault receive the Purple Heart?” Well, they should, as he points out, because they were killed in the line of duty by a jihadist who told us hewas on a mission from God to attack American troops. Kimball observes:

It’s tricky for Obama. His administration is devoted to transforming the jihadist war against the West into a civilian conflict. Hence the heavy odor of political correctness that has hung about Fort. Hood since November 5 when Maj. Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” and opened fire.

Perhaps the most nauseating PC emission came from General George Casey, the army’s top officer, who told CNN that he was “concerned” that “speculation” about Maj. Hasan’s motivation in mowing down those 40-odd people at Ft. Hood “could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.”

So we are being tested, once again, to see whether we can shake ourselves from the slumber and the natural inclination to minimize, avoid, and ignore the looming face of monstrous evil that threatens not only individual Americans but also Western civilization. That’s what is at stake here and what the Obama administration is at pains to conceal. It makes them nervous, it disrupts their kumbaya internationalist view, and it would summon them to put away childish stunts (e.g., moving KSM to New York, closing Guantanamo, purging “Islamic fundamentalism” from their vocabulary) in favor of a robust policy of national security that is commensurate with the threat we face.

As Kimball notes, Obama insisted on calling the massacre “incomprehensible,” a telling word that describes perhaps the intellectual confusion now gripping much of the chattering class. Kimball observes, “Until we are willing to face up to that truth, we will not be able to defend ourselves effectively.” So far, we’re off to a poor start.

Read Less

Burma Outreach

How’s our Burma outreach going? Well, not so well. Frankly, we aren’t even effectively reaching out to our allies on the subject. As this report explains, Obama, in his meetings with Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein and other Southeast Asian leaders, called for the release of Nobel Prize–winning democracy dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. He didn’t do anything more, however, and the pro-democracy advocates are noticing:

Mr. Obama failed to secure any mention of political prisoners in a communique issued by the meeting’s participants afterward. That failure disappointed dissidents who were hoping the president’s involvement would encourage Southeast Asian leaders to take a harder line on Myanmar’s junta, which is accused of widespread human-rights abuses but remains a trading partner with much of the region.

The failure to single out Ms. Suu Kyi was “another blow” to dissidents who want more pressure on the regime, said Soe Aung, a spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma, a Thailand-based organization. “We keep saying again and again that the U.S. should not send a mixed signal to the regime.”

For all his powers of persuasion, he seemed unable — or was it unwilling — to round up support for Suu Kyi’s releases. But we are told that “U.S. officials had taken pains to reduce expectations for the meeting, which occurred between sessions at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and was part of a new initiative by the Obama administration to increase interaction with the Myanmar government.” Well, the “new initiative” sort of raised the expectations, didn’t it? The Obami seem confused once again. The Obami seem confused once again. They are contemplating a ”new initiative” to be launched on Burma, and promising that “engagement” offers a more productive way forward. But they don’t quite grasp that when there’s no result to all this, because the Burma regime is impervious to “engagement,” then the Obama effort will look like a failure. That is how things usually work; the apparent denseness of the Obama team after months and months on the job is not heartening.

And meanwhile, “criticism from dissidents will likely intensify if results aren’t seen soon, increasing the pressure on U.S. officials to show progress or walk away. ‘I think there is a need for some gestures now’ from the Myanmar side, or the U.S. might have to scale back its re-engagement with the regime, said Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert at Macquarie University in Australia. He called the meeting ‘very disappointing’ because of the failure of Southeast Asian nations to follow Mr. Obama’s lead and press for Ms. Suu Kyi’s release.” Disappointing indeed. But hardly surprising to anyone other than the Obami.

How’s our Burma outreach going? Well, not so well. Frankly, we aren’t even effectively reaching out to our allies on the subject. As this report explains, Obama, in his meetings with Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein and other Southeast Asian leaders, called for the release of Nobel Prize–winning democracy dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. He didn’t do anything more, however, and the pro-democracy advocates are noticing:

Mr. Obama failed to secure any mention of political prisoners in a communique issued by the meeting’s participants afterward. That failure disappointed dissidents who were hoping the president’s involvement would encourage Southeast Asian leaders to take a harder line on Myanmar’s junta, which is accused of widespread human-rights abuses but remains a trading partner with much of the region.

The failure to single out Ms. Suu Kyi was “another blow” to dissidents who want more pressure on the regime, said Soe Aung, a spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma, a Thailand-based organization. “We keep saying again and again that the U.S. should not send a mixed signal to the regime.”

For all his powers of persuasion, he seemed unable — or was it unwilling — to round up support for Suu Kyi’s releases. But we are told that “U.S. officials had taken pains to reduce expectations for the meeting, which occurred between sessions at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and was part of a new initiative by the Obama administration to increase interaction with the Myanmar government.” Well, the “new initiative” sort of raised the expectations, didn’t it? The Obami seem confused once again. The Obami seem confused once again. They are contemplating a ”new initiative” to be launched on Burma, and promising that “engagement” offers a more productive way forward. But they don’t quite grasp that when there’s no result to all this, because the Burma regime is impervious to “engagement,” then the Obama effort will look like a failure. That is how things usually work; the apparent denseness of the Obama team after months and months on the job is not heartening.

And meanwhile, “criticism from dissidents will likely intensify if results aren’t seen soon, increasing the pressure on U.S. officials to show progress or walk away. ‘I think there is a need for some gestures now’ from the Myanmar side, or the U.S. might have to scale back its re-engagement with the regime, said Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert at Macquarie University in Australia. He called the meeting ‘very disappointing’ because of the failure of Southeast Asian nations to follow Mr. Obama’s lead and press for Ms. Suu Kyi’s release.” Disappointing indeed. But hardly surprising to anyone other than the Obami.

Read Less

The Right to Be Like Obama

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

The New York Times is giving Barack Obama high marks for “push[ing] rights with Chinese students.” In Shanghai, Obama was asked via Internet, “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” Here was the audacious answer:

“Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”

OK, that wasn’t the audacious answer. That was the “self-effacing” appetizer that whets the appetite for the audacious answer:

“I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely, because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time,” he said. But, he added, “because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.”

Get it? Twitter should be used freely because Barack Obama manages to bravely endure the free flow of information in the U.S., and that makes him a better leader. Clumsy thumbs and all.

There is an Obama teaching-moment methodology. He has employed it to teach us mortals about America’s founding documents, to teach the International Olympic Committee why it should choose Chicago, and to teach Europeans why the fall of the Berlin Wall was so great: Look at what has worked so well to make me who I am. Follow that road and you shall be set free.

The sad truth is that Obama’s answer (without, of course, a simple “yes” in it) really is an administration high point for human rights. When Hillary Clinton visited China a few months back, she raised the topic only to announce her indifference to it. In other news, China detained dozens of dissidents in advance of Obama’s visit. That Beijing actually believed human-rights activists could move Barack Obama serves to demonstrate the extreme paranoia of the Communist party.

Read Less

The Bow Is Par for the Course

Jake Tapper finds an academic with some expertise on Japan who relates this on the cringe-inducing bow:

“Obama’s handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush’s back-rub of Merkel.

“Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.

“The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms…. The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.

Without getting too carried away, this incident is a neat little example of Obama’s foreign-policy blunder-fest. First, the arrogance — he lived abroad, don’t you know. He “gets” other cultures. Second, the ignorance — no, he doesn’t. He should not have done this, both because it is an affront to American dignity (we have not submitted to monarchs since 1776) and because it conveys the wrong message to the Japanese. Third, Obama’s natural inclination is groveling, ingratiating, and general suck-uppery. He seems to believe that, rather than an erect projection of American strength, submissiveness is going to get him/us somewhere. Finally, the lie — oh this is “protocol,” the Obami say. Ah, no it’s not. Whether delivering fractured history (in Cairo), or denying their own failed gambit (preconditions? what preconditions for the Middle East peace process?), or disguising their motives (dismantling missile defense isn’t to appease the Russians, we were laughably told), or trying to pull a fast one to get out of an embarrassing jam (Honduras), the Obama foreign-policy operation is one of the most disingenuous and incompetent in recent memory.

Sometimes a bow is just a bow. And sometimes it is a reminder that it is amateur hour at a critical time in our history.

Jake Tapper finds an academic with some expertise on Japan who relates this on the cringe-inducing bow:

“Obama’s handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush’s back-rub of Merkel.

“Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.

“The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms…. The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.

Without getting too carried away, this incident is a neat little example of Obama’s foreign-policy blunder-fest. First, the arrogance — he lived abroad, don’t you know. He “gets” other cultures. Second, the ignorance — no, he doesn’t. He should not have done this, both because it is an affront to American dignity (we have not submitted to monarchs since 1776) and because it conveys the wrong message to the Japanese. Third, Obama’s natural inclination is groveling, ingratiating, and general suck-uppery. He seems to believe that, rather than an erect projection of American strength, submissiveness is going to get him/us somewhere. Finally, the lie — oh this is “protocol,” the Obami say. Ah, no it’s not. Whether delivering fractured history (in Cairo), or denying their own failed gambit (preconditions? what preconditions for the Middle East peace process?), or disguising their motives (dismantling missile defense isn’t to appease the Russians, we were laughably told), or trying to pull a fast one to get out of an embarrassing jam (Honduras), the Obama foreign-policy operation is one of the most disingenuous and incompetent in recent memory.

Sometimes a bow is just a bow. And sometimes it is a reminder that it is amateur hour at a critical time in our history.

Read Less

Damascus Reverts to Form

Well, that didn’t last long. Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced he would resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions, but now he suddenly says it’s impossible. “What we lack is an Israeli partner,” he said, “who is ready to go forward and ready to come to a result.”

As an absolute dictator and a state sponsor of terrorism, Assad is in no position to boohoo about how the region’s only mature liberal democracy supposedly isn’t a peace partner — but he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t think he could get away with it. If even the United States, of all countries, is behaving as though Israel were the problem, why shouldn’t he play along?

In a different historical context, it might be amusing, as Baghdad Bob’s alternate-universe pronouncements were, to listen to the tyrannical Assad talk as though he’s the Syrian equivalent of Israel’s dovish Shimon Peres, while the elected Israeli prime minister is a Jewish Yasir Arafat. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, though, is acting as though the first part were true.

Sarkozy is working hard to boost France’s influence in the Middle East by carving out a role for himself as a mediator between Israelis and Arabs. When Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week that they would hold talks, they did it through him. And this weekend Sarkozy offered to host Assad, Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a summit in Paris. He can’t host any such thing, however, if the belligerents on the Arab side are shut out. So Assad has to be brought in from the cold, whether he’s earned it or not.

He hasn’t. And now that his reputation is getting an undeserved scrubbing, brace yourself for the worst sort of passive-aggressive Orwellian grandstanding. Read More

Well, that didn’t last long. Last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced he would resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions, but now he suddenly says it’s impossible. “What we lack is an Israeli partner,” he said, “who is ready to go forward and ready to come to a result.”

As an absolute dictator and a state sponsor of terrorism, Assad is in no position to boohoo about how the region’s only mature liberal democracy supposedly isn’t a peace partner — but he wouldn’t do this if he didn’t think he could get away with it. If even the United States, of all countries, is behaving as though Israel were the problem, why shouldn’t he play along?

In a different historical context, it might be amusing, as Baghdad Bob’s alternate-universe pronouncements were, to listen to the tyrannical Assad talk as though he’s the Syrian equivalent of Israel’s dovish Shimon Peres, while the elected Israeli prime minister is a Jewish Yasir Arafat. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, though, is acting as though the first part were true.

Sarkozy is working hard to boost France’s influence in the Middle East by carving out a role for himself as a mediator between Israelis and Arabs. When Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week that they would hold talks, they did it through him. And this weekend Sarkozy offered to host Assad, Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a summit in Paris. He can’t host any such thing, however, if the belligerents on the Arab side are shut out. So Assad has to be brought in from the cold, whether he’s earned it or not.

He hasn’t. And now that his reputation is getting an undeserved scrubbing, brace yourself for the worst sort of passive-aggressive Orwellian grandstanding.

“What Obama said about peace was a good thing,” he said. “We agree with him on the principles, but as I said, what’s the action plan? The sponsor has to draw up an action plan.”

Notice what he’s done here? He’s portraying himself as though not only Netanyahu but also Barack Obama were less interested in peace than he is. It should be obvious, though, that Assad isn’t serious. He supports terrorist organizations that kill Americans, Israelis, Iraqis, and Lebanese — not exactly the sort of behavior one associates with leaders who agree with Barack Obama “on the principles.” Yet he’s blaming the United States for his own roguish behavior, because the U.S. does not have an “action plan.”

“Assad said that while relations with the United States had improved,” Reuters reports, “issues such as continued U.S. sanctions against Syria were hindering any joint work towards peace in the Middle East.” Got that? If the United States doesn’t drop sanctions against Syria, Assad will continue burning the Middle East with terrorist proxies.

“The Syrian regime is temperamentally incapable of issuing a statement that doesn’t sound like a threat,” Lee Smith noted last week in the Weekly Standard. Assad sure knows how to say it, though. It’s rather extraordinary that he can actually threaten to murder people in so many countries while sounding as if he were asking why we all can’t just get along. At least Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bigoted and hysterical fulminations are honestly hostile. We best get used to Assad’s act, though, unless and until Obama and Sarkozy realize there’s nothing to be gained from politely “engaging” this man.

Assad backs terrorists and thugs who have killed Lebanon’s former prime minister, members of Lebanon’s parliament, American soldiers, and civilians as well as soldiers in Iraq and in Israel – all acts of war. Say what you will about former French President Jacques Chirac. Unlike with the generally improved Sarkozy, Chirac’s relationship with Syria’s fascist and terrorist government was appropriately terrible.

Read Less

Hasan’s Imam

The Washington Post, through an interview conducted by a Yemeni journalist, has gotten an earful from imam Anwar al-Aulaqi, the radical cleric whom Major Nadal Hasan sought out. Seems that Hasan was seeking “spiritual guidance” and that the two had a chummy e-mail relationship. Why yes, we’ll have to find out how it could be that no one “sensed a potential threat” given that “U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted e-mails from Hasan.”

This should be of interest to those who think this has nothing to do with Islam:

Aulaqi said Hasan’s alleged shooting spree was allowed under Islam because it was a form of jihad. “There are some people in the United States who said this shooting has nothing to do with Islam, that it was not permissible under Islam,” he said, according to Shaea. “But I would say it is permissible. … America was the one who first brought the battle to Muslim countries.”

The cleric also denounced what he described as contradictory behavior by Muslims who condemned Hasan’s actions and “let him down.” According to Shaea, he said: “They say American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should be killed, so how can they say the American soldier should not be killed at the moment they are going to Iraq and Afghanistan?”

Keep in  mind that Aulaqi in now safely lodged in Yemen — where we are now depositing Guantanamo detainees. Maybe it’s time to reintroduce “Islamic fundamentalism” or “Islamic jihadism” into our government’s official lexicon.

The Washington Post, through an interview conducted by a Yemeni journalist, has gotten an earful from imam Anwar al-Aulaqi, the radical cleric whom Major Nadal Hasan sought out. Seems that Hasan was seeking “spiritual guidance” and that the two had a chummy e-mail relationship. Why yes, we’ll have to find out how it could be that no one “sensed a potential threat” given that “U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted e-mails from Hasan.”

This should be of interest to those who think this has nothing to do with Islam:

Aulaqi said Hasan’s alleged shooting spree was allowed under Islam because it was a form of jihad. “There are some people in the United States who said this shooting has nothing to do with Islam, that it was not permissible under Islam,” he said, according to Shaea. “But I would say it is permissible. … America was the one who first brought the battle to Muslim countries.”

The cleric also denounced what he described as contradictory behavior by Muslims who condemned Hasan’s actions and “let him down.” According to Shaea, he said: “They say American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should be killed, so how can they say the American soldier should not be killed at the moment they are going to Iraq and Afghanistan?”

Keep in  mind that Aulaqi in now safely lodged in Yemen — where we are now depositing Guantanamo detainees. Maybe it’s time to reintroduce “Islamic fundamentalism” or “Islamic jihadism” into our government’s official lexicon.

Read Less

Kisses, Bows, and Hugs

Hillary Clinton’s kissing Suha Arafat. Not a good idea. Barack Obama’s bows. Rather cringe-inducing. (Clintons know that presidents shouldn’t bow.) And there is Charlie Crist’s hug:

It was in the glow of a new day in politics last February when Mr. Crist, this state’s popular Republican governor, took the stage with President Obama and declared that Republicans and Democrats had to rise above partisanship in support of an economic stimulus. And Mr. Obama embraced him.

Oops. Crist has a primary fight against the charismatic, conservative Marco Rubio, who has made opposition to Obamaism the cornerstone of his message. And that is a popular theme these days with the Republican base. They are in no mood to embrace, figuratively or otherwise, Obama. And the stimulus that caught Crist’s fancy is widely regarded, even outside the conservative base, as a bust.

Belatedly, Washington Republicans have gotten the message. Once racing to endorse Crist, the Republican Senate Campaign Committee is now in full retreat (“hounded by conservative bloggers, Mr. [John] Cornyn announced this month that he did not plan to spend any money in the primary”).

What is Rubio offering? “He argues for small government and reduced spending, but mostly, he talks about the need to stop what he calls the Obama agenda. ‘The bottom line is that if you’re a Republican, the Republican Party should be an alternative, not a facsimile,’ he said in an interview. ‘And I think I offer that.’” No hugs there.

Think of it this way: Crist has taken the Lindsay Graham approach; Rubio, the Bob McDonnell approach. If next year the Republican electorate is in a mood to accommodate Obamaism, Crist will cruise. If not, he’s in trouble. Yeah, I think so too.

Hillary Clinton’s kissing Suha Arafat. Not a good idea. Barack Obama’s bows. Rather cringe-inducing. (Clintons know that presidents shouldn’t bow.) And there is Charlie Crist’s hug:

It was in the glow of a new day in politics last February when Mr. Crist, this state’s popular Republican governor, took the stage with President Obama and declared that Republicans and Democrats had to rise above partisanship in support of an economic stimulus. And Mr. Obama embraced him.

Oops. Crist has a primary fight against the charismatic, conservative Marco Rubio, who has made opposition to Obamaism the cornerstone of his message. And that is a popular theme these days with the Republican base. They are in no mood to embrace, figuratively or otherwise, Obama. And the stimulus that caught Crist’s fancy is widely regarded, even outside the conservative base, as a bust.

Belatedly, Washington Republicans have gotten the message. Once racing to endorse Crist, the Republican Senate Campaign Committee is now in full retreat (“hounded by conservative bloggers, Mr. [John] Cornyn announced this month that he did not plan to spend any money in the primary”).

What is Rubio offering? “He argues for small government and reduced spending, but mostly, he talks about the need to stop what he calls the Obama agenda. ‘The bottom line is that if you’re a Republican, the Republican Party should be an alternative, not a facsimile,’ he said in an interview. ‘And I think I offer that.’” No hugs there.

Think of it this way: Crist has taken the Lindsay Graham approach; Rubio, the Bob McDonnell approach. If next year the Republican electorate is in a mood to accommodate Obamaism, Crist will cruise. If not, he’s in trouble. Yeah, I think so too.

Read Less

Is This Really Worth It?

Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo writes:

Trying KSM in civilian court will be an intelligence bonanza for al Qaeda and the hostile nations that will view the U.S. intelligence methods and sources that such a trial will reveal. The proceedings will tie up judges for years on issues best left to the president and Congress.

Whether a jury ultimately convicts KSM and his fellows, or sentences them to death, is beside the point. The treatment of the 9/11 attacks as a criminal matter rather than as an act of war will cripple American efforts to fight terrorism. It is in effect a declaration that this nation is no longer at war.

Yoo was the object of much ire from the Obami and their supporters. As one author of the Bush-era interrogation memos, he was accused of promoting “torture” — an assertion that now will be wielded like a sword by KSM’s lawyers as they try to put the U.S. on trial. And what will Eric Holder’s Justice Department say — no, it wasn’t torture after all? No, none of the information derived from the enhanced interrogations was used for the “prosecution”? It will be only one aspect of a multi-ring circus.

And as Yoo explains, the danger to the U.S. is great, as we will be “forced to reveal U.S. intelligence on KSM, the methods and sources for acquiring its information, and his relationships to fellow al Qaeda operatives.” Aside from blowing the “cover” of personnel and plans known to us, we will be taking an unmistakable step toward criminalizing the battlefield:

Even more harmful to our national security will be the effect a civilian trial of KSM will have on the future conduct of intelligence officers and military personnel. Will they have to read al Qaeda terrorists their Miranda rights? Will they have to secure the “crime scene” under battlefield conditions? Will they have to take statements from nearby “witnesses”? Will they have to gather evidence and secure its chain of custody for transport all the way back to New York? All of this while intelligence officers and soldiers operate in a war zone, trying to stay alive, and working to complete their mission and get out without casualties.

The mind reels as one considers the multiple ways in which the decision to extract KSM from the military-tribunal system and plop him down into a Manhattan courtroom will harm our national security. And will it really stay in Manhattan, in such close proximity to Ground Zero, or should I say, “the crime scene”? Certainly a change of venue motion will be forthcoming among the hundreds, if not thousands, of motions that will flow from the defendant — oh yes, that’s defendant KSM, now entitled to the presumption of innocence – and his stable of lawyers.

If you think Yoo or Obama’s critics are exaggerating, Yoo reminds us of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker: “His trial never made it to a jury. Moussaoui’s lawyers tied the court up in knots. All they had to do was demand that the government hand over all its intelligence on him. The case became a four-year circus, giving Moussaoui a platform to air his anti-American tirades.”

The president would have us believe that this is all Holder’s doing. Obama wasn’t even in the country when the announcement was made. If true, Obama has abandoned his obligation to make key decisions affecting national security. But who really believes that? No, this is the president’s call. KSM is landing in a civilian courtroom because Obama wants him there. Whatever flows from that, whatever damage is done to our national security, is his responsibility. And frankly, whatever anguish is experienced by the victims’ families, who will now hear KSM proclaim the virtue of his cause, is also Obama’s. He should have had the decency and the courage to tell them and the American people why he thought this was necessary.

Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo writes:

Trying KSM in civilian court will be an intelligence bonanza for al Qaeda and the hostile nations that will view the U.S. intelligence methods and sources that such a trial will reveal. The proceedings will tie up judges for years on issues best left to the president and Congress.

Whether a jury ultimately convicts KSM and his fellows, or sentences them to death, is beside the point. The treatment of the 9/11 attacks as a criminal matter rather than as an act of war will cripple American efforts to fight terrorism. It is in effect a declaration that this nation is no longer at war.

Yoo was the object of much ire from the Obami and their supporters. As one author of the Bush-era interrogation memos, he was accused of promoting “torture” — an assertion that now will be wielded like a sword by KSM’s lawyers as they try to put the U.S. on trial. And what will Eric Holder’s Justice Department say — no, it wasn’t torture after all? No, none of the information derived from the enhanced interrogations was used for the “prosecution”? It will be only one aspect of a multi-ring circus.

And as Yoo explains, the danger to the U.S. is great, as we will be “forced to reveal U.S. intelligence on KSM, the methods and sources for acquiring its information, and his relationships to fellow al Qaeda operatives.” Aside from blowing the “cover” of personnel and plans known to us, we will be taking an unmistakable step toward criminalizing the battlefield:

Even more harmful to our national security will be the effect a civilian trial of KSM will have on the future conduct of intelligence officers and military personnel. Will they have to read al Qaeda terrorists their Miranda rights? Will they have to secure the “crime scene” under battlefield conditions? Will they have to take statements from nearby “witnesses”? Will they have to gather evidence and secure its chain of custody for transport all the way back to New York? All of this while intelligence officers and soldiers operate in a war zone, trying to stay alive, and working to complete their mission and get out without casualties.

The mind reels as one considers the multiple ways in which the decision to extract KSM from the military-tribunal system and plop him down into a Manhattan courtroom will harm our national security. And will it really stay in Manhattan, in such close proximity to Ground Zero, or should I say, “the crime scene”? Certainly a change of venue motion will be forthcoming among the hundreds, if not thousands, of motions that will flow from the defendant — oh yes, that’s defendant KSM, now entitled to the presumption of innocence – and his stable of lawyers.

If you think Yoo or Obama’s critics are exaggerating, Yoo reminds us of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker: “His trial never made it to a jury. Moussaoui’s lawyers tied the court up in knots. All they had to do was demand that the government hand over all its intelligence on him. The case became a four-year circus, giving Moussaoui a platform to air his anti-American tirades.”

The president would have us believe that this is all Holder’s doing. Obama wasn’t even in the country when the announcement was made. If true, Obama has abandoned his obligation to make key decisions affecting national security. But who really believes that? No, this is the president’s call. KSM is landing in a civilian courtroom because Obama wants him there. Whatever flows from that, whatever damage is done to our national security, is his responsibility. And frankly, whatever anguish is experienced by the victims’ families, who will now hear KSM proclaim the virtue of his cause, is also Obama’s. He should have had the decency and the courage to tell them and the American people why he thought this was necessary.

Read Less